Archiving the digital

Sarah Miller spends time with Arts_Edge at the Art Gallery of WA

Dame Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female Parliamentarian, checks out Arts_Edge

Dame Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female Parliamentarian, checks out Arts_Edge

Unusual to see an exhibition of web-based and CD-ROM work in a State collecting institution. Their particular digital obsession—not surprisingly—is digitisation of their various collections. So it was great to see Arts_Edge at the Art Gallery of WA in March, beautifully installed in the central atrium space of the gallery. It certainly found a very different kind of audience to that at your typical (sic) contemporary or screen-based art space/event: lots of school kids, families and senior citizens. The only problem I could discern, was to do with the number of stations and headsets available. It meant queues.

Arts_Edge was an integral component of Arts on the Edge, the conference on arts and education hosted by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. Co-ordinated by Derek Kreckler from the Academy of Performing Arts, this project was developed with a particular commitment to the necessity of creating an archive of these kinds of works before their particular techno-historical and creative 15 minutes has passed.

The exhibition came with a $5,000 cash prize and an Apple computer donated by Westech Computers. The cash was divided between Sally Pryor (AUS) for Postcard from Tunis and Perry Hoberman (USA) for The Sub-Division of Electric Light. Francesca da Rimini and Michael Grimm (AUS) are still working out how to carve up the dual processor Apple 7220 awarded for dollspace.

A much smaller exhibition than, say, Burning the Interface or techne, it was great to actually feel you could spend time with the individual works without needing an entire lifetime to do so. Aside from the excellent winning entries, I particularly enjoyed Melinda Rackham’s Line (web-based) and Dieter Kiessling’s cute CD-ROM Continue, which suggests a parodic link to Minimalism and the Fluxus wit of the 60s and 70s. Rather than attempting to fool us into accepting the ‘false infinities’ that the hype around CD-ROM would have us believe in, Continue takes us to the other end—or perhaps the beginning—to the binary code degree zero. Continue and The Sub Division of Electric Light are just 2 of the works exhibited in the witty ZKM Artintact series (See John Conomos’ report on ZKM on page 28).

Many will be familiar with Canadian Luc Courchesne’s Portrait One also screened in Burning the Interface. Portrait One is a witty virtual dialogue between the viewer and a ‘slyly amicable girl.’ Image association determines Slippery Traces: The Postcard Trail, a collaboration between George Legrady (CAN) and Rosemary Comella (USA). The viewer navigates a maze of about 200 interconnected postcards, snapping on hot spots which take you to other images through literal, semiotic, psychoanalytic, metaphoric or other links. Speaking of slippery, Brad Miller and McKenzie Wark’s Planet of Noise occupied a machine of its own and chasing the hot spots to move through the ROM provided hours of family fun. Great graphics and sound.

A coherent and enjoyable exhibition with an excellent catalogue essay by the McKenzie Wark, an important outcome from this event is the archiving—by the WA Academy of Performing Arts—of all the works exhibited: 4 web-based and 10 CD-ROM works. The archive is intended to be developed over a 10 year period.

Exhibiting Artists: web works: Line, Melinda Rackham (AUS); The Error by John Duncan (Italy); Maintenance Web by Kevin and Jennifer McCoy and Torsten Burns (AUS); dollspace by Francesca da Rimini and Michael Grimm (AUS). CD-ROMs: Shock in the Ear by Norie Neumark (AUS); Slippery traces: the postcard trail by George Legrady (USA); Portrait One by Luc Courchesne (Canada); Manuscript by Eric Lanz (GER); Troubles with Sex, Theory and History by Marina Grzinic and Aina Smid (Slovenia); Cyber Underground Poetry by Komninos Zervos, (AUS); Postcards from Tunis by Sally Pryor (AUS); The Subdivision of Electric Light by Perry Hoberman (USA); Continue by Dieter Kiessling (Germany) and Planet of Noise by Brad Miler and McKenzie Wark (AUS).

Arts_Edge, coordinated by Derek Kreckler, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and Imago Multimedia Centre at the Art Gallery of WA, March 27 – April 8.

RealTime issue #25 June-July 1998 pg. 11

© Sarah Miller; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 1998